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Acid attack: Trial begins for man accused of hate crime in Milwaukee

Posted at 5:38 PM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 23:16:16-04

MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee man who had acid thrown in his face took the stand Monday against his alleged attacker.

Prosecutors have charged 64-year-old Clifton Blackwell with a hate crime. Back in 2019, police say Mahud Villalaz and Blackwell got into an argument about parking near 13th and Cleveland.

Mahud Villalaz and Clifton Blackwell
Mahud Villalaz and Clifton Blackwell

Villalaz testified Blackwell made racist comments towards him.

"Why can't you follow our laws? Go back to your country," Villalaz testified.

He testified he responded to Blackwell, "You don't know my status. I have the right to be here."

Mahud Villalaz
Mahud Villalaz testified in court on Monday to tell his side of the story after acid was thrown on his face in 2019.

Villalaz emigrated from Peru to the United States and is a citizen.

He says he was out that night getting food. Once he encountered Blackwell, he moved his car. He says he came back and the conversation continued.

"Did you ever advance towards him?" the prosecutor asked during cross examination.

"I flinched," Villalaz testified.

Clifton Blackwell
Clifton Blackwell

Prosecutors showed the jury surveillance video they say shows the moment Blackwell threw the acid. It also shows Villalaz running inside a nearby restaurant for help.

He suffered second degree burns and spent two days in the hospital.

Mahud Villalaz 2021 vs 2019
Mahud Villalaz 2021 vs 2019

Blackwell was arrested a few days later. His defense team says the evidence will show Blackwell acted in self-defense. They say he was waiting for the bus after getting groceries when Villalaz came up to him.

"He was pretending, as he told the police, he was pretending to punch him," said defense attorney Michael Plaisted in opening statements. "That's why this happened. That's why he had acid thrown in his face."

The defense will get a chance to cross examine Villalaz Tuesday.

"Mr. Blackwell thought his person was going to be interfered with," Plaisted said. "I think the evidence will show he had the right to defend himself with whatever he had."

There are 10 women and four men on the jury panel. Two will be selected as alternates at the end of the trial. The jury is mostly white with one person appearing to be a person of color.

They will hear the rest of the state's case on Tuesday.

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